Published in Issue 18, Craccum Magazine 2015. View it here!
If you’re a fan of gospel, jazz, doo-wop or the blues then there is a 99% chance that you are going to become as addicted to Leon Bridges’ debut album Coming Home as I am. Hailed by critics as a modern-day Sam Cooke, Bridges’ tunes are smooth and catchy, his voice rich and soulful. But there is something very earnest about his music which reminds his listeners of Cooke, and other soul greats such as Otis Redding. That he plays with a full band (complete with horn instruments and backup singers) adds to the authentic sound of his songs. This is real music which takes you back to the ’50s and ’60s, not some young pop artist trying to make a quick buck by ripping off the style of classic jazz and soul figures.
The title track and lead single of the album was the first song I heard, and its old-school, genuine sound instantly caught my attention. Bridges’ expressive voice, combined with the simple, feel-good music and soft lyrics makes this a very hard song to dislike. The rest of the album does not disappoint. I cannot name a song on it that I don’t like, though certainly some are better than others. The jazzy track Smooth Sailing, with its tidy, ‘cool’ feel is a definite highlight, but it’s the doo-wop numbers which stand out. Better Man is catchy and brilliant in its simplicity, lyrics such as “what can I do to get back to your heart? / I’d swim the Mississippi River, girl” giving Bridges’ Southern roots a nod. Lisa Sawyer is another doo-wop gem, which Bridges wrote about his mother’s life growing up. Slow and sweet, it tells a story in a mellow kind of way which is actually really effective. The third track on the album, Brown Skin Girl, is an amazing piece with a very catchy bass line and lazy rhythm, while River, Pull Away and Shine are all great, slower gospel tunes.
Ultimately, Bridges is a very cool guy. His old-school style isn’t just his music; he wears suit pants and leather shoes and felt hats, and keeps his Instagram alive with black and white photos, as well as filming several of his music videos in monochrome. It’s this all-round dedication to his style and sound that sets him apart, and makes him one to watch for the future.